"The true disciple, say the rabbis, learns in order that he may do, not in order than he may merely know or teach.” – Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary
“There must be inward practice by meditation, and outward practice in true obedience.” – Baxter
In his epistle, the Apostle James demanded practical holiness. We especially see this demonstrated in James 1:22-24 where he said – “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
In this passage of Scripture, James dealt with a problem that was prevalent among the believers of that day. Times have not changed for this same problem exists today.
What exactly is this problem that he addressed in his epistle?
It was the problem that the believers were stopping with the hearing of the Word and not going any further. Resultantly, they were filled with a self-satisfaction which was preventing their spiritual progress. They would hear the Word but would not allow it to change their behavior. James likened them to a man who took a fleeting glance into a mirror and then walked away forgetting what defects or blemishes he saw. In other words, these believers derived no benefit from the mirror or the looking therein. The Word was not being impressed upon them through the doing of it. It would show them their sin, blemishes, and errors in life and demand a change, but they would get distracted, be gone, and go back to their old ways or to the world – forgetting what they saw in the “mirror.”
It wasn’t that they were careless hearers. They simply neglected to put into practice what they heard. They became utterly regardless to the influence the Word was to have on their lives or to its claims to obedience.
They became comparable to students in a university who were auditing courses rather than taking them for credit. They would listen carefully to what was said but took no responsibility in meeting the requirements of the course. They convinced themselves that hearing the Word with great attention was all that was necessary.
Through false reasoning, they misreckoned and miscalculated. They deceived themselves. They thought they should be commended and blessed for being faithful hearers. After all, they didn’t miss a Sunday in hearing the Word preached. However, this wasn’t good enough.
Just as in James’ day, something needs to be done in the churches of today for we have the same problem. Many believers are like those college students who are auditing the course at the university. They listen attentively to the message but feel no responsibility of going any further with the information they receive. Resultantly, we have a church filled with “believers” who are sorely deceived and caught up in the “web” of carnal security and don’t even know it.
What is needed is a Wake-Up call!
Preachers need to rise up as the Apostle James did and demand action. “Hearers only” must not be allowed or tolerated. If anyone calls himself a Christian, he must be a “doer of the Word” and not a “hearer only.”
As Christians, we must take full responsibility for our own actions and place a strict demand on our lives whereby we perform what the Word commands. We must rise up individually and tolerate no more the “hearers only” mentality.
God demands obedience. And if we dare to call ourselves His followers, then we must be sure to give Him what He commands.